The Hotline, National Journal’s Daily Briefing on Politics, scores Mitt Romney as having the best first six months of 2006, heading into the 2008 presidential campaign.

— And who had the best six months? Mitt Romney, incredibly, now an “outsider” who has distanced himself from his MA pedigree.

To say that no other WH ‘08’er had a better 6 months than Romney would assume that there was another politician in America who saw his stock rise as much as the MA gov in the first half of ’06.

–A governor (outsider) in a GOP field dominated by Senators (insiders), Romney engineered a bipartisan healthcare solution that won front-page notice from the WSJ, WP and NYT – on the same day. The bill later drew favorable reviews from the likes of Yepsen, Brownstein and Alter – on the same day. Not even McCain got that sort of MSM love this year.

–A New Englander by way of Michigan, Romney came into Memphis for the SRLC and stole the headlines with an unexpected second-place finish in the straw poll, besting two Southerners and the primary’s putative front-runner

–A lame-duck RGA chair with a national fundraising base, Romney has spent more combined time in IA, NH, SC and MI than any other ‘08’er, planting staff, seeding candidates and earning chits along the way in all four early-nominating states.

To be sure, pitfalls await Romney on his Road to the WH (Mormonism, Yankeeism and Globe’ism, among them), but if his next 6 months are like the last, he goes into ’07 at or close to the top of the field.

Romney’s mainstream press reviews this year have been impressive–meaning I think that he has performed better than expected. He is now being mentioned in the upper tier of Republican candidates, such as this review. Of course, there’s the danger of peaking too soon, and the election is two years away. Yet, so far things are looking better than expected for the yet to be announced Romney Presidential bid. The next six months will interesting to watch and see where he is at the end of 06, particularly in light of the 06 Congressional elections, which may prove to be surprising to many.

How does this impact the Church?  Well, in my humble opinion it puts are more friendly political face on the Church.  Until Mitt’s political rise, I think the most visible political face the Church had was Senator Orrin Hatch, and now more recently Senator Harry Reid.  Senator Reid is a more moderate political face to associate with the Church.  Senator Hatch, on the other hand, is an embarrassing political face.  His nonsensical flag burning amendments that he continually introduces while war rages, terrorism flourishes, and Osama Bin Laden continues to taunt the world’s greatest democracy is pathetic.

Mitt Romney, however, I think puts a kinder gentler political face on the Church, while still maintaining his conservative credentials.  Romney’s success, particularly with health care in Massachusetts will bring positive political capital to the debate.  Health care delivery and coverage in this country is flat out broken.  It needs serious readjustment.  Many of the issues we face, such as terrorism, foreign oil dependence, economic reform, and others could use fresh faces.  Perhaps Mitt Romney is that face.